Gartner predicts that only 25% of business meetings will take place in-person by 2024. It is likely that the use of videoconferencing will continue long after the pandemic ends.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing measures have led to significant changes in the way people work.

One of these changes is the increased use of videoconferencing as a means of communication and collaboration or simply for business meetings.

As IT leaders prepare for a mix of meeting modalities post-pandemic, it will be critical that they ensure equitable collaboration, tool and resource access for all meeting participants, regardless of location. Employers and employees alike are on the lookout for technologies that can enhance their online collaboration experience, devoid of glitches and lags.

This focus on collaboration should mean everything should be clear, easy to understand, simple to use and conducive for reducing misunderstandings. And when it comes to remote client meetings or virtual companywide gatherings, high-quality visual content is a must-have for user experience.

DigiconAsia discussed the issues surrounding our digital experience in the hybrid work environment that looks set to be in place for the long term, with Gan Ta Loong, Managing Director, Barco SEA and Vice President ProAV, Barco APAC.

Hybrid work arrangements look like they’re here to stay. What are some considerations in workplace design organizations should bear in mind?

Gan: As companies welcome employees back to the office and prepare for hybrid working, they must consider that the way people are collaborating has changed and thus requires developing a strategy in implementing remote and onsite solutions. Here are some workplace design considerations to ensure success in the new way of working:

  • Technology adoption

Implementing hybrid working across the organization can only be successful if the organization is backed by the right technology tools that would connect employees despite working separately. Most meeting spaces in the workplace need to be equipped with videoconferencing technology, which should be the first and main priority, to cater to all meeting attendees, whether working remotely or onsite. Intuitive teamwork, hassle-free sharing, central management and robust security enable true Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM) are the hallmarks of the ideal videoconferencing technology. Meeting participants can easily use their preferred UC&C solution and use existing meeting room peripherals like audio, camera and screen to make hybrid meetings just as efficient as in-person meetings.

  • Employee experience

Employee expectations have changed significantly in the past year. In redesigning the workplace, employers must engage the employees in the planning process and ensure that the spaces are heavily focused on their experiences. The workplace should have the capacity to empower employees to work the way they are most comfortable with, which will also yield higher efficiency and productivity. Business leaders must also solicit their suggestions to ensure that they will thrive in the new hybrid environment. Employers who will base their investment decisions on employee feedback will most likely have the best chance of success.

  • Ergonomics

There’s no question that better workplace ergonomics leads to health and work benefits for office workers. Essentially, the ultimate goal is to eliminate worker discomfort. Here are some key points to consider:

Visual ergonomics

Working all day in front of screens can be visually demanding, which is why it is important to set up a workspace display for maximum visual comfort. Having an organized display allows workers to see a more accurate overview of a task and be able to work on it more efficiently. Visuals and lighting must be considered in redesigning the workplace.

Content ergonomics

Content ergonomics has to do with how easy it is to consult information, both on the overview display and in the personal workspace. Workers often need to handle a multitude of different content sources, ranging from operational data, client information, and overview graphs to internet and office applications. Constantly switching between these different sources adds complexity and strain to the workflow. That is why it is important to be able to organize content on workspace displays in a way that is most convenient and productive for the employees.

Interaction ergonomics

In the hybrid workspace, employees need collaboration solutions that would allow them to interact better and connect, especially as some of them may be working remotely. When a crisis arises, they also need to be able to access information and interact with one another as well as their content in the blink of an eye. An uncluttered workspace and the right workplace solutions are critical to making this happen.

As IT and business leaders prepare for hybrid meeting modes, what would ensure better collaboration and participation?

Gan: To remain thriving, businesses must adapt to a changing world of work. They need a digital strategy, flexibility, an agile workforce, common goals, and of course, digital tools to ensure better collaboration and participation. Teamwork and meetings are at the nucleus of the workplace strategy and they need to stimulate and encourage collaborative working.

Since the attendees of the meetings will both be in-room and remote connected only through technology, businesses need well-rounded digital solutions that will enable collaboration in the meeting room, boardroom, training room, conference room and huddle space. This allows them to benefit from their #1 competitive advantage – human engagement. Address challenges like working remote, with freelancers or in cross-generational teams, dealing with BYOD, BYOM, and personal tech experiences.

As the needs of the workforce shift alongside the transformation of the workplace, organizations must also develop clear collaboration strategies that would address these needs. The hybrid workplace means more flexibility for the workers and employees must thereby consider synchronous and asynchronous collaboration to allow for this flexibility. Adopting communication and collaboration tools, such as intranets and internal integrated systems, helps everyone adapt to hybrid working with ease and efficiency.

As the look and dynamics of the workplace continue to evolve, companies also need to restructure the workplace to optimize the engagement potential of their space. They need to shift towards a more employee-centric environment and rethink the 9-to-5 workplace. Having an experiential office space is the next step towards business success. Workers’ expectations, happiness and inspiration should be considered when equipping the workplace to create a dynamic environment for everyone.

One way to excite employees to make the trip to the office is through eye-catching digital displays. The contrast between working from the kitchen table and working from a 21st-century office space surrounded by large video walls will never be more apparent. The digital capabilities of employers become a key attraction point.

At Barco, we call this ‘Enjoy The Office’ experience or ETO.

As they return to the workplace from their home workspaces, employees are seeing it through fresh eyes. It is crucial, therefore, that they like what they see.  An office centered on employee comfort and needs increases their engagement and satisfaction, which leads to better collaboration and participation of the workforce as a whole.

What should employers look out for when investing in technologies and tools that can enhance online collaboration experience devoid of glitches and lags?

Gan: While investment in technology is crucial for businesses to ensure success in the new work environment, it is also important that they reflect before investing to make informed decisions. Here are some key considerations they should look into to enhance their online collaboration experience:

  • What solutions are already installed?

Audio and video devices, displays, UC&C platform(s), productivity and control tools: do they want to keep using the current devices or do they need an upgrade? All new tech investments should be compatible with existing setups, ideally. A wireless content-sharing and conferencing solution is vital and can function as the heart of the entire meeting room ecosystem.

  • Which UC&C platform is best?

Deciding which UC solutions work best for a company is a huge responsibility. There is the option to go for a single preferred solution companywide. A straightforward choice, but not always the easiest one. Because customers, suppliers, subcontractors or freelancers might be using another solution instead. So, it might be good to roll out a BYOM strategy and allow employees to connect with whatever UC&C solution they are comfortable with.

  • What is the purpose of the meeting rooms?

Time spent in a meeting room should be time well spent. Businesses can make this happen by equipping meeting rooms for what they’re used for. A meeting’s purpose can vary a great deal, from presenting and informing to co-creating. So, organizations need to make sure that their meeting room setup supports the purpose of the meetings the users are having. That way, their conference room setup sparks creativity, innovation and smooth collaboration.

How else could organizations create an environment that would facilitate efficiency and improved performance as employees embrace the new way of working?

The future is in the cloud. All across the world, companies and organizations are turning to cloud-based solutions to store, guard, and process their data. Parallel to this, new generations are entering the workforce, expecting to be able to maintain a healthy life-work balance. The key to both trends is technology, which is advancing fast to turn these new needs into reality.

Organizations should begin to jump on the train to enable flexible virtual solutions that will facilitate efficiency and improved performance and equip workers as they embrace the new way of working. Not just remote, but hybrid. A meeting room ecosystem is essentially the whole of technologies, hardware and software, that is needed to create productive and engaging video collaboration. By equipping smart rooms with the right tools that work together in perfect sync, organizations can enable an optimal collaborative experience.

In addition to investments in the right technology, employers must also set clear rules and regulations on how they are optimizing hybrid working. What’s great about the hybrid model is that it can be adapted to the specific needs of a certain company. For instance, having 50% of the employees work from home for three days a week may work with one company, and may not with the next. From here, employees would be better positioned to create rapport among each other, and leaders and their teams, which creates a social cohesion that powers a unified hybrid office culture and enables them to embrace the new way of working.

Appropriate training is also a must to enable efficient hybrid meetings, where remote workers and in-office workers are connected effortlessly.

Successful adoption of the hybrid work model means a healthy mix of onsite and remote work, and fruitful collaboration between colleagues, departments, sites, and external stakeholders, to enjoy efficient workflows and easy collaboration with each other.